The Fall of Affirmative Action and the Rise of DEI Leadership

With the Supreme Court’s recent decision to end affirmative action, the need for institutes of higher learning to consider information about student identities such as race, ethnicity, or gender in their admissions policies has been greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

Whatever one might think about the wisdom of this decision or the heated politics surrounding it, there is no refuting one fact, proven time and time again in successful businesses and organizations across the board – diversity builds strength and fosters innovation.

The Court’s reversal of this long-established initiative presents an opportunity for corporate America to step up and play a crucial role in championing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within their organizations. These re-engineered, newly named, and repositioned DEI efforts will need to be championed from the top. An executive team that is actively involved and committed to building a culture of inclusion and understanding is the prime driver behind any successful initiative.

As a leader, how can you help build a culture of diversity that works for the benefit of you, your team, and your community? Based on our deep expertise and long experience in educating professionals on addressing equity and inclusion, FocusWorks has developed a uniquely effective five-pronged approach. Our Five Pillars of Progress is specifically designed to guide you through the fundamentals and subtle nuances of building an inclusive culture of cooperation within your organization.

Executive Leadership
A serious commitment at the C-suite level is a necessary first step to an inclusive workplace, and a diverse leadership team and board of directors serves as a top-down example for your company’s employees. At the very least, it’s essential that the executive team be actively involved and committed to fostering an inclusive culture. Clear and constant communication and transparency about DEI progress and regular reports on diversity metrics serve to hold the company accountable for its efforts.

Talent Management
In the interest of recruiting and retaining quality employees, companies should regularly review and strengthen their internal DEI policies and practices. This includes implementing transparent hiring and promotion practices, ensuring pay equity, and creating a supportive and inclusive work environment for all employees. In addition, corporations can actively seek out and recruit diverse talent from various sources and backgrounds.

Companies should also actively work to eliminate bias in their hiring. Diverse interview panels and structured interview techniques are good starting points. DEI efforts need to be continuously reviewed to assess their effectiveness.

Workforce Engagement
Creating an environment that promotes a sense of inclusion and belongingness is the overarching goal of any DEI initiative. The formation of employee resource groups (ERGs) within the organization provides a platform for employees from different backgrounds to come together, share experiences, and advocate for positive change within the company. A proactive approach to diversity training helps underrepresented team members advance within the company, fostering a more inclusive workplace.

Supplier Diversity
Implementing a supplier diversity program is a great way to ensure that a wide range of vendors and suppliers do business with the company.

Community Reputation
Engaging with local communities and supporting organizations that work towards DEI objectives shows commitment and provides support to your community. For example, many companies collaborate with non-profits and educational institutions to create scholarships and mentorship opportunities for underprivileged students. Companies can also leverage their influence to advocate for policies and legislation that advances diversity and equity.

At FocusWorks, DEI training is built into our DNA. Our Five Pillars of Success has long served as a helpful framework for leaders working to create a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Strong leadership is at the very heart of this process, and the time is now for these leaders to set the example in filling the void as affirmative action comes to an end.